Nigeria’s Universal Basic Education Act, passed in 1999, said the government should provide six years of free primary school education. Students are expected to attend an additional three years of junior secondary school, which are not paid for by the state.
There is no mention that boys and girls should be educated in equal number, but currently across Nigeria more boys go to school than girls – for every nine girls at school there are 10 boys.
Special emphasis is often given to increasing female enrolment.
The UN’s education organisation Unesco defines acceptable gender parity as between 98 and 102 females to every 100 males enrolled in school.
According to the 2016 National Education Indicators, fewer than one in three states have acceptable gender parity ratios at the primary level. At the junior secondary level, this falls to nine states and at the senior secondary level this drops even further to three states.
Ekiti state performs the best, having achieved gender parity at all levels of education.
Katsina state has the greatest disparity at all levels in terms of number of students. Over 170,000 more boys are enrolled than girls in primary education; over 43,000 more boys than girls in junior secondary and nearly 44,500 more boys than girls in senior secondary.
However, when expressed as a percentage of the total population of enrolled students, Zamfara state comes off worst. At all levels of education, twice as many male students are enrolled as female students. The quality of the education these students receive is also a matter of consideration. According to the 2015 Nigerian Education Data Survey (Neds), 44% of students in government-funded primary schools could read and 74% of students in private primary schools. At the junior level, these figures increased to 91% and 96%, respectively.
President Buhari has vowed to commit 15% of the national budget to education. Yet his record in office suggests that much more work needs to be done to reach that figure.
In 2016, his administration allocated 8% of the budget to education and in 2017 this amount fell to 7.4%. The figure now stands at 7% of the national budget, just more than 650bn naira ($1.8bn, £1.4bn). To reach the targeted 15% of the national budget, the president would need to more than double the current funding package to 1.3tn naira, or reduce expenditure elsewhere.